It was more of the same for Team USA in Europe.
Team Europe swept the four Friday morning Foursomes matches on their way to taking a 6½-1½ lead over the Americans after the first day of the 44th Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome, Italy.
The Euros also posted a 2½-1½ margin in the four afternoon Fourball matches, as for the second time in Ryder Cup history the U.S. went an entire day without winning a match.
“The fact that the Americans didn’t win a full point was incredible, and just shows the heart, grit and determination that the European team has,” said second-ranked Rory McIlroy (pictured) of Northern Ireland, the only player to record a 2-0 record in the first day.
“All week, all we’ve been talking about is getting off to fast starts. … We were ready to go from the first tee shot, obviously, as you can see in how everyone played.
“It was a great day for some amazing home fans.”
The United States took a 27-14-2 lead in the series with a 19-9 rout of Europe two years ago at Whistling Straights Golf and Country Club in Sheboygan, Wis., but the Americans have lost the last six Ryder Cups played on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Americans have not won in Europe since a 15-13 victory in 1993 at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England.
“It was a historic day,” said European captain Luke Donald, whose team was led by three of the top four players in the World Golf Rankings. “But we want it to be an historic week, so the job is certainly not done. We will all celebrate an amazing day, but we’ll be back tomorrow morning with the goal of trying to win tomorrow morning’s session.
“They are studs, three of the top four players in the world. You need your superstars firing. You need them playing well. Without that, it’s really an uphill battle. They stepped up and did what they needed to do, and I’m so proud of them.”
The closest the United States came to winning a match on this day was in the final Fourball match in the afternoon, when seventh-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal teamed with 10h ranked Wyndham Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion took a 2-up lead over Justin Rose of England and Robert MacIntyre of Scotland.
However, the Euros won the last two holes, with Rose sinking a clutch seven-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to salvage a halve.
“I didn’t want us to be the only one to let red on the board,” said Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion. “The 18th hole was incredibly kind to us, and the boys holed some unbelievable putts. Those three ties mean a lot, just for moral victory as much as obviously keeping the score as spread as possible.”
In the only Fourball match that didn’t end in a tie, McIlroy and eighth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England downed fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, and sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, 5 and 3.
In the other two Fourball matches, third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain and Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark won the 16th and 18th holes to halve their match with top-ranked Scotty Scheffler and Brooks Koepka, the reigning PGA champion, while Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas couldn’t hold a 2-up lead after 13 holes and halved their match with fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway and Tyrrell Hatton of England.
“It’s not the start we wanted, but fortunately for us we’ve got a lot of golf left,” said Thomas, a two-time major champion. “But tomorrow is important. We’ve put ourselves in a spot where every session is extremely important.”
Rahm chipped in for a birdie at No. 16 and holed a 17-foot eagle putt on the last hole to gain the halve.
In the morning Foursomes, Hovland chipped in for a birdie on the first hole and never trailed alongside Ludvig Aberg of Sweden in a 4-and-3 victory over Homa and Brian Harman; Rahm and Hatton also never trailed while beating Scheffler and Sam Burns, again by 4 and 3; Shane Lowry of Ireland and Sepp Straka of Austria were never behind in a 2-up victory over Rickie Fowler of Murrieta and Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, while McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood of England also were never behind in a 2-up win over Cantlay and Schauffele.
“It did not go in our favor today, but that doesn’t mean it can’t tomorrow or Sunday,” non-playing U.S. Captain Zach Johnson said. “I tip my cap to the European team for playing great golf. Our time’s coming.”
And there is plenty of opportunity left for the Americans to come back, as after eight more matches on Saturday, there will be 12 singles matches on Sunday to cap the Ryder Cup.
For complete results and Saturday morning’s Foursomes match-ups, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard